How to Become a Podiatrist


A podiatrist in the U.S. is a doctor in medicine who practice health care focused on the narrow field of diagnosis and treatment of the ankle, foot, and their related structures and tissues. The human foot is a complicated structure that contains a large number of blood vessels, nerves, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and around half of the body’s bones.

Podiatrists are health care practitioners specialized in providing medical care for patients suffering from ankle, foot, or lower leg medical conditions. Among their professional duties are included diagnosis of illnesses, treatment of injuries and diseases, as well as performing surgical procedures on the lower extremities.

A career as a podiatrist in the United States can be very rewarding, since this medical specialization is in pretty high demand. However, the professional path to become a podiatrist is not easy and involved many years of study as well as passing professional certifications and licenses exams.

Podiatrists are medical doctors who provide health care for patients suffering of lower leg, ankle, and foot problems. Among their duties are included diagnosis of injuries and illnesses, treatment of injuries, as well as performing surgery involving the lower extremities.


Here are the common duties of a podiatrist:

  • Assess the condition of a patient’s lower legs, ankles, and feet, by listening to the patient’s concerns, reviewing patient’s medical history, and performing a physical examination.
  • Diagnose lower leg, ankle, and foot problems through medical laboratory tests, X-rays, physical exams, and other methods.
  • Prescribe medication.
  • Give advice to patients on who to care for ankle and foot, or general wellness instructions.
  • Prescribing special orthotics shoe inserts in order to improve a patient’s mobility.
  • Provide foot, lower leg, and ankle treatment for various ailments.
  • Perform ankle and foot surgeries, such as correcting ankle and foot deformities or removing bone spurs.
  • Attend conferences and read medical journals in order to keep updated on the advances in podiatric medicine specialization.
  • In case they detect other health problems podiatrists may refer patients to other specialists or physicians.


Podiatrists treat a wide variety of ankle and foot ailments, including ingrown toenails, calluses, arch problems, and heel spurs. They also treat leg and foot problems caused by diabetes and other diseases. Some podiatrists specialize in performing advanced surgeries, such as ankle and foot. Others may choose a specialty such as pediatrics or sports medicine.

Most podiatrists in the United States work in offices or clinics of podiatry, either with other podiatrists, or on their own. Those podiatrists who open their own practice may also spend some time on business related activities, such as managing inventory or hiring employees.

Some podiatrists work in group practices with other specialists or physicians. Others work in public and private environments, in outpatient care centers and hospitals.

Statistics show that in the United States around 14-15 percent of podiatrists are self-employed. A self-employed podiatrist can work with partners in a medical practice or in a solely own medical environment.

The work schedule for podiatrists is mostly full time. Some podiatry offices and clinics may stay open on weekends or in the evenings in order to better accommodate their patients. Those podiatrists working in hospitals may be on call or have to work occasional on weekends or nights.


As most of the medical professions, podiatrists enjoy a high base salary, good work benefits, and supplementary bonuses, or overtime pay. Statistics show that in the United States the median annual salary for a podiatrist is around $190,000, making it one of the top paying jobs in the US. Surgical podiatrists have an even higher median income, estimated at $232,000.


In order to become a licensed podiatrist, one must earn first a degree as a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine. After graduation a future specialist in podiatry must also complete a three year residency program. In the United States, in order to be able to work as a podiatrist, one must be first licensed.

Aspiring podiatrists have a specific educational background. After achieving a suitable score on the MCAT and completing a pre medical degree, aspiring podiatrists must also complete in an accredited podiatric college a four year doctoral program. Such programs provide courses with focus on the foot, beside other coursework that is similar to what is provided in any other medical college. The subjects of study include physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, state laws and medical ethics. Students are also required to go through several clinical rotations that allow them to engage in hands-on training.

Residency, fellowships and licensure are also required in order to practice the medical profession of podiatrist. Newly graduated podiatrists must serve a three year residency under the supervision of an experienced practitioner, in a clinical setting. This requirement is similar for all medical doctors. During the residency period, resident podiatrists learn physical and medical therapies, and surgical procedures.


Some of the podiatrists may chose to go further with their studies and to complete fellowships, seeking advanced training in a certain subspecialty such as sports medicine or pediatrics. After the completion of accredited residency, podiatrists need also to pass the state examination in order to obtain their license to practice.

Doctors in podiatric medicine who work in a hospital have also other career advancement opportunities, such as advancing in management positions in the hospital’s board.


Podiatrists must have empathy for the problems of their patients, have a sense of attention to detail, be good communicators, be good team players as well as able to work on their own without supervision.


Analysts of the U.S. job market expect a rise in employment opportunities for podiatrists in the near future. For the period from 2012 to 2022 the total growth in employment, in this medical specialty is estimated at 23 percent. The pace of growth for podiatrist specialists is much faster than the average for all occupations. The aging population will continue to require a growth in medical and surgical care of the ankle and foot. Podiatrists will also be needed to treat chronic conditions of the ankle and foot caused by obesity or diabetes.



I'm Olivia, a stay at home mother from Australia and I blog at I have a sports science background and attained a Bachelor of Applied Science (Ex. Sci.). I believe in self-sustaining, eco-friendly family life, and I hope to inspire others in their pursuit of the same.